tv [untitled] CSPAN June 9, 2009 9:00am-9:30am EDT
good morning and thank you for joining us. let's begin with the elections in lebanon on and what it means for hezbollah and what it means for the u.s. . >> this is an election that was important for a lot of players. the israelis, certainly the united states. in part because -- not onlyrjz because of oq-bollah and the role in the relationship with iran but also because of the
originally suggested this may be heavy-handed it might have the opposite effect. in fact, if it had an esket, it seems to have been positive. and what's interesting is in a poll that did i in lob none, that i released a few weeks ago, the lebanese, when you asked them what are the issues that matter to you most in the relationship with the u.s., number one with the arab-israely issue that clearly always trumps in the arab world. second most important issue, over 40% of the lebanese have said foreign aid. that's highly surprising because that's not what you get in saudi arabia, egypt, morocco. so it appears the foreign aid issue may have been a factor. host: let me go back to the specifics. it's not one individual party, right? it's a combination of parties. they get 71 and hezbollah gets 57 what does that mean in terms of governing? guest: well, there was a
reality in lebanon which is it can form a government but the fact is hezbollah and the opposition are still a major factor not only in parliament. so far there's been a national unity with the opposition being members of that government and they were given through an agreement that was brokered by the cutleries, the so-called blocking one-third which can veto major decisions by the government. this is thought to be an issue of contention, the forming of the nuclear mission. but the reality me mains on the ground. hezbollah is by far the most powerful faction in lebanon by virtue of its military power. they have a power that can challenge the lebanese army itself. it was a power that was able to perform well against the israely military in 2006 that remains an issue of contention. no one expects hezbollah will disarm. by virtue of it can a powerful force, it still is going to be a player in the negotiations
for coalition. i just want to say one more thing. if you look at it, if you're lebanese, you have to be proud, anyway, because remember won in all the sectarianism and its flawed political system is still a liberal place, relatively toll rent, relatively free, relatively democratic. this is the election that was held in a relatively peaceful manner and over 54% participation, international observers. the opposition said they'll accept the results. that's all very good. and it's very good for the lebanese and something for them to be proud of. but at the same time, the system is flawed. and it is still sectarian. that's part of the problem. and it doesn't reflect the demographics on the ground. and the lebanese are going to have to negotiate among themselves in evolution of this system. host: let me go to a map. what's the distance of the border between southern lebanon and northern israel?
guest: southern lebanon is on the border of israel. host: but in terms of mileage? how far? guest: they're right on the border. if you're in some parts of the southern israel on the border, you can see some towns in lebanon. physically. you can see them. if you look at beirut, the capital, which is not even in the south, it's really more in the center, on the mediterranean, you look at the northern cities of israel, whether it's-dwra -- haifa to the south, there used to be a train that would get through in less than a couple of hours so it's a very small distance. this is an area -- that's why palestinian refugees went there, thinking they were going a few miles with a from what was then northern palestine. we speak about the lebanese population, which is roughly
about four million people. and very mixed. christians themselves are divided between marinites, greek orthodox, greek catholics, the muslim. there's armenian also. roughly 4% of the population. there are also about 400,000, maybe more, palestinian refugees who are stateless, roughly 10% of the population of lebanon that don't have any status in lebanon, that still are there that are not i except grated into political systems. they obviously didn't have a chance to vote. host: those familiar with lebanon say it is a microcosm of the middle east of the all of the dynamics in the middle east, you can find in lebanon. can you elaborate on that? guest: i'm not sure i agree with that in the sense that lebanon is really unique. lebanon -- an example of lebanon. by the way, it's very hard not to fall in love with lebanon with all of its flaws. it's an amazing country, an
amazing culture. it's hospitableable, it's tolerant. it's got a culture that is open. and it's, of course, geographically magnificent. that is why it is the closest place in the middle east of europe and it's still loved. but let's face it lebanon doesn't have -- [inaudible] christians who used to be a majority in the early 20th century now are a minority. they're still a significant minority. so it's much more sectarian than any other -- in that sense it isn't representative of the arab world what it is, though, is all the arab states have founded a place. this is not nearly. this is in part because the people of opposing views from radical left to the right wing
to the israelis, the saudis. so it is a place where a lot of issues in the region played themselves out. it's a very unique place. host: let me share with you one of the tweets from george who says "one are the odds the opposition block will hold their seat once elected? what's to prevent another hezbollah coup?" guest: it's interesting. obviously you can make that argument. and some people hear that. hezbollah has said very distinctly that that's not what they intend to do. and i think that frankly if they would do it, they would invite so much international retaliation and unity against them. even aside from the fact that i don't think they can rule over lebanon with its independent --
historically. that even hezbollah recognizes it is not doable. and in fact, hezbollah used that, by the way, as a way to show, quote that there are momentum not intended to bully people in the elections. said, look, this was an election, it's free. we accept it. we're not going to change the outcome. so they're defending the fact that they have weapons. host: our guest, shibley telhami. joe son the phone from los angeles -- is on the phone from los angeles. good morning. caller: there's always been a historical allegiance between the christians -- the israelis back up the christians in the civil war. are the christians comfortable dealing with the muslims? where do the christians side? do they see israel as an alli or more of a problem -- an ally or more of a problem?
to the israelis think the christians in lebanon could possibly help them out in case there's a war with syria? or, you know with any other arab country? s what -- what's the politics of the christians as it relates to israel's national security? guest: that's a really interesting question. we go back, certainly the civil war wasn't merely christian-muslim divide but it was largely the extent of that. there were people who were taking sides on this in the interinternational community. but the fascinating thing about the 1975 civil war in lebanon, which is the major civil war, was that actually the syrians intervened on behalf of the christians divided by then a christian president so it was very interesting. but syrians had their own interest. they didn't want more radicals and basically dictate to them what they need to do with israel. in part, they were trying to prevent israel and the u.s. from intervening.
but nonetheless, it was an interesting coalition. but it's true that since after that time that many within the christian group, particularly the lebanese forces, sided with israel. and certainly over 1982 when israel invaded lebanon, there was coordination and following that invasion of lebanon in 1982, particularly over the palestinian issue. but in the current environment, it's fascinating to see that actually the most divided group in lebanon is the christian in fact, the vast majority of the shiite both with the opposition, with hezbollah and the coalition, the vast majority of the sudanese are voting with the ruling coalition. but the christians have been divided. and that division was actually the source of prediction that hezbollah and the open decision may do better because one of the leaders of the christian factions allied with hezbollah.
the former general was expected to do better than he did. and so what's been fascinating about the politics of the christian community in lebanon, even the marinite communities typically have been divided far more than have the shi'a, certainly. and would i say the sunnis as well. host: who two civics buzzes. one is in north carolina atwoodlawn high school. you may remember our grand prize winner is the c-span student cam contest. he sent a message to president obama. his focus was on cancer. and today as part of the contest we agreed to send a bus to the grand prize winners' high school which is where it's at today. the grand prize winner is on the phone with a question. hello, sawyer. >> good morning. host: good to talk to you again. >> yes. nice to talk to you, too. i heard the show briefly mention refugees.
how has the recent election in lebanon reflected relationships with incoming palestinian refugees? guest: there are no incoming palestinian refugees now but it it is s tragic. you're talking about most of these refugees have been there since 1948 coming in thinking this is a temporary arrangement. they have certainly not returned to their homes, but they also have not been incorporated into lebanon. they cannot participate in politics. they don't have lebanese citizenship. they don't have access to certain jobs. they don't have access to the government educational system. they're much poorer, more desperate. they're basically taken care of either by certain palestinian groups or by the u.n. their environment, i think, is so difficult. even just the humanitarian aspect. politically it's also a destabilizing force for lebanon. part of it is the lebanese
sectarian system is such that they worry about any changes in the demographics. most -- the palestinian refugees are both christian and muslim. but the vast majority are muslim and sunni muslim so you can imagine how the different faction may look at incorporating them into a country which is divided along sectarian lines. so i think the lebanese refugee problem, palestinian refugee dilemma, is the most urgent and most difficult issue to be resolved when addressing the arab-israeli conflict outside the occupied terrys, the west bank and gaza. host: tyrone is next from los angeles. good morning. caller: hi. it's steve actually. that's ok. i wanted to find out if you would be interested in reviewing a friend of mine's book who is a ph.d. at the university of maryland it talks about how the iraq war is for israel and basically the palestinian situation is based on that, how the neoconservative that i've
spoken with you at the university of maryland a few years ago, the name of the author is dr. see iten sagastki, university of maryland, ph.d. guest: i certainly would be happy to see the book. i don't know about reviewing. but i'd be happy to see the book. host: irene is next from monroe, north carolina. good morning. caller: good morning. guest: good morning to you. caller: i enjoy your conversation this morning. and you're exactly on the nose, on the dime -- guest: thank you. caller: when it comes to the lebanese situation. now, i wanted to say something about the israelis. dth the israelis from the time of 1948 when they became a state, they were mostly ruleded -- ruled from the group that
came from london and europe. they formed the state. they did a fine job. then the safartems came in and they had no vote. then the sabra who is a native-born israeli, has no say in the kinesit. i don't think there's one. and then you have -- host: i'm going to jump in. we don't have a lot of time. do you have a question? caller: yes. i just wanded to say that israel will never solve their problems until they stop the infighting. host: thank you.
guest: well, i think that in the history of israel there certainly has been a demographic transformation of the jewish population. initially it was largely a european jews, actually, more from eastern europe than from western europe. but then there was an influx of middle eastern jews who came in. and it's true who dominated the political system for a long time. still dominate certain aspects of israeli. but that was a huge divide in israel. in a way not only class divide but a political divide and cultural divide. it has actually been to a large extent bridged. not gone but to a large extent bridged. there are many different categoriesation. you have the russian immigrants who came in. you have a significant group of russian immigrants who came in and they forged a block that is really distinct from the
historic ashkinazi community that came in. there's been a transformation of israel that is more idealogical over time. initially it was a socialist country. most of the immigrants came in with socialist ideas, establishing the collectists. and more secular and less religious. and clearly what was seen in israel is more moved toward religious groups. still not a majority but a significant group. and certainly the economy and the culture has changed. so there are far more important divides in israel today than simply the safartic divide. host: a photograph of some of the bright a.p. world history students from woodlawn school in davidson, north carolina. one of those students joins us on the phone, onboard the c-span civics bus. good morning, graham. caller: hi. good morning. i like the election. here's my question.
the pro western forces won the election. the hezbollah, which the u.s. government has labeled a foreign terrorist organization, took 57 -- [inaudible] falling a near eight votes from victory. that being said, how solid a hold do the pro western forces have in lebanon's government? host: how strong of a hold? guest: how strong of a hold do which forces have? caller: the pro western force. guest: again, it's a question in terms of parliamentary. obviously they have a preimportant majority. 71 out of 128. that's important. but that's not going to be nearly enough to govern without cooperation of the other groups. in part because of the demographics. again, i go back to the fact that the system set up where, for example, the christians are now a minority in lebanon.
but they're assured one-half of the parliamenty seats. we don't know how much of a minority because it's not been a sense since 1932. it's deliberate because they don't want to change the delicate game. the president has to be a marinite christian. the prime minister has to be a sunni muslim. speaker of the parliament has to be a shiite. you have all of these kinds of rules of the game. they are sensitive and have to be taken into account. that's part of the lebanese political culture that has to evolve. but the reality of it is that's not representative of the demographics on the ground so a government cannot ignore the demographics on the ground it also cannot ignore the power on the ground and the shi'a militia, particularly his bollia, much more, is very powerful. possibly even more powerful than the armies. it's hard to know for sure. one -- and the army certainly
still has shi'a among it. it's really supposed to be a national army which i think has been more or less a national army. so in that sense i think the opposition still has a power on the ground. it's going to be weeks of negotiations to forge an effective government that can run the country effectively and peacefully. and hopefully we wouldn't get into any kind of militant tension, that this would be donely to peaceful negotiations. >> on friday in election in iran, the president seeking another term. former prime minister close in some polls depending on who is doing the polling. what will happen and what impact does it have on our relations with iran and the overall middle east equations? guest: it's going to be interesting. the elections themselves are probably one reason why the iranians haven't yet responded to the president's initiative on iran. i think the lines have been
late in responding to what have been very good gestures coming from the obama administration. and one reason may than they were just awaiting the outcome. i think even if imagine imagine wins -- ahmadigan wins, he will respond to the president. so in a way just having the elections would be important it would be very important for the u.s. is ahmadinejad is defeated. defeated doesn't necessarily men mousabi winning. they'll have a runoff election and if he doesn't go under 50% in this election, he could lose the runoff election which is likely to be within a week. a -- i think that would be important for the u.s. not because i think the u.s. is a major factor in the iranian elections it probably isn't. built i think it is a factor in the negative.
she often anger with america is used to get people to trump other issues. in lebanon, i think it may have been a factor. fact is, it's very hard to be now angry with this administration given what it has done in relation -- saying we want to talk to iran. it's even admitted that we've intervened against the democratic hezbollah people of the 1950's so it's put a lot of people on the table that makes it -- deprives people like him from using the u.s. to rally people. and in that sense the u.s. could be a factor. at a minimum it will be interpreted that way. whether or not the u.s. is a factor will be interpreted that way. so the outcome of the election will be important. but even if ahmaddijan de wins, i expect he will be under pressure to respond to the administration's gestures. host: our guest has a long career in ack deemia, teaching
at cornell uferts, also a visiting fellow at the woodrow wilson center. he has been a professor at u.s.c., princeton, columnia, u.c. berkeley. he also has penned a number of editorial pieces over the years. valley stream, new york. good morning. caller: good morning, professor. good morning to you. my question is about the refugees in lebanon. i was wonnering -- wondering, during the last 60 years, actually since 1967 or since the 1970's, has there been attempts to integrate any of those refugees into the jordanian population being that jordan has over 60% of their population is palestinian? guest: certainly not jordan. these are not people who came from jordan that came from what was palestine is now israel.
and they have settled in lebanon. many of them actually have identified with lebanon in a way even though they're not part of the political system of lebanon. jordan, by the way, to its credit, i think, after a 1948 was one country, really the only country that have offered citizenship to palestinian refugees. not only palestinians who are jordanian but who became refugees both after 1948 and after 1967 and incorporated them into the jordanian political system. that doesn't mean there aren't many refugee camps in lebanon still in jordan that are still in difficult conditions, being serviced by the u.n. services. but at least they carry jordanian passport. they're entitled to service from the jordanian government that's not true of the refugees. that's why i say it is the most
pressing and most difficult immediate problem in the comprehensive solution to the palestinian-israeli conflict. this is going to be one of the more difficult ones. i think plans should be underway now to address that. i don't think he can wait. because i think it's one that's going to need urgent attention. host: our next student from davidson, north carolina, is chandler. go ahead, please, chandler. >> good morning. i was wondering how the new presidency in lebanon will affect the neighboring countries in the middle east. guest: first of all, you know, the presidency was not -- these were parliamenty elections. the prime minister is the one decided by this. and most likely to be mr. harriri who has been the head of the cloleition though he didn't serve as prime minister before he's expected to serve as prime minister this time. host: he is the son of the assassinated -- guest: yes. he's the son.
had been supported by not only a large lebanese population, particularly among the muslims, but also by a number of arab countries, especially saudi arabia. host: just as a side note, has anyone about charged with that? any new update on who was responsible? guest: there's been an international -- there's been an international tribunal that is investigating -- commission that is investigating the assassination. there have been rumors. initially there were rumor that syria had a hand, that hezbollah has a hand. but there are no formal charges. there is a lot of information hee and there. but up to now there are no formal charges. think one shouldn't speculate too much until we know what the facts are. host: our last call from anwar. good morning. caller: good morning. how are you doing, sir? guest: good morning. caller: i have a question about the refugees in israel, tel aviv, egypt, across the border,
sued yap, darfur and being denied by the u.s. immigration services as people come to the united states, cabbed i can't, australia -- canada, ause trail yax i want to know how these people now, -- [inaudible] guest: i think what you're referring to, there were very few episodes. we are not talking about a significant number of people. we are talking about people coming across sometimes over the egyptian border or the jordanian border. from the sudan who are trying to cross over. this is really not a major population. they were initially denied, i think. and then israel had made some exceptions to some of them. but i do not believe any of them were incorporated or absorbed as citizens. host: in the first conversation since his speech in cairo the white house confirmed that president obama had a 20-minute
conversation with prime minister netanyahu in tel aviv. and either sunday in jews lum -- jerusalem or monday he's expected to deliver his own response to the president's remarks in die -- cairo. what will we hear? guest: it was interesting. to us it generated big in america about our relations with the muslim world. but it generated an important debate in israel. about the syrians -- seriousness of the president brkts new american policy, about the peace initiative about the priority of the white house. and therefore the prime minister of israel under pressure from his own people to put something on table to respond. if you look at the israeli debate, you know, in the press and among politicians, the prime minister was under pressure to produce some gesture, some peace plan because the obama